Kindness is an often overlooked characteristic of a successful marriage.
Ask any married person what a key ingredient of a great marriage is, and you would receive answers like respect, commitment, honesty, and openness in communication.
Just like cooking up a palatable dish, if a key ingredient is missing, the dish lacks the “oomph” that has you coming back for more.
Kindness may not be the fundamental element that holds the marriage, but without generous dashes of it, your relationship cannot flourish.
What is kindness?
According to the Cambridge academic content dictionary, kindness is defined as the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people, or an act showing this quality.
When people think of kindness, they often associate it with acts of generosity such as buying gifts, or acts of service such as taking out the trash.
But being kind is both an attitude and an action. Do we treat our spouses with gentleness when they make mistakes or are we condescending? Do we insist on our way or do we consider our spouse’s needs and preferences in every situation?
Of course, it is easy to be kind when things are going well or when your spouse is kind first. It’s a totally different story when things are not going well, or you perceive your spouse to be the one who is unkind or undeserving. Such angsty times are, in fact, opportunities to practise kindness.
If you match a snide remark your spouse made with your own equally sarcastic comment, what you get at best, is negative vibes for that moment, but at worst, it could spark a cycle of tension and resentment in your marriage.
However, if you try something different – instead of returning harsh words, you choose to speak with compassion or voice your emotion with an “I” statement, you halt the negativity in its tracks and might even get an apology from your spouse.
As the saying goes, “Kindness begets kindness.” So, if couples make it a habit to exercise kindness toward each other, they will feel validated and cared for. Over time, it gives rise to an upward spiral of positivity and love, which nourishes the marital bond and fosters intimacy.
If you are in a relationship that is struggling, conscious acts of kindness may not transform your marriage overnight, but they are a good start. Kindness has the power to change a marriage that has become lacklustre or contemptuous. What is required is effort and time to be a kinder partner.
However, if you are experiencing abuse of any form or find yourselves entrenched in unhealthy patterns of communication, please seek professional help .
Since kindness nourishes the marital bond and promotes emotional connection, why not flavour our marriages with the secret sauce of kindness?
If couples make it a habit to exercise kindness toward each other, they will feel validated and cared for.
Choose to be kind first
We cannot make or force our spouse to be kind. However, we can choose to be kind regardless of our spouse’s attitude or actions. Being kind does not mean faking a smile when we are unhappy or yielding to demanding behaviour. It does mean we treat our spouse the way we want to be treated. If we want our marriage to be characterised by kindness, we can start by being kind first.
Give without expecting payback
Of course, it will not come easy if we perceive our spouse to be undeserving of kindness. That’s when it is helpful to examine our motivation for expressing kindness. If our goal is to give expecting a payback, we would be upset if our spouse does not reciprocate. When we extend kindness because it is the right thing to do, then the rewards are more far-reaching and long-lasting: a healthy, vibrant and thriving marriage.
Schedule time for kindness
This strategy may be deemed as lacking depth or hollow. But it is worth a try if your priority is to strengthen your relationship by becoming a kinder person.
Random acts of kindness can increase good vibes and make your spouse feel validated. But they are just that – random. When you schedule time for kindness, your focus will be on ways to express kindness toward your spouse. So instead of ruminating over petty grievances that could potentially make you feel worse and zap your energy, set aside a little time on a regular basis – whether it is ten, twenty minutes, or whatever timeframe you are comfortable with – to do something thoughtful for your spouse.
Daily acts of kindness not only nourishes your relationship; they can keep resentment taking root in your marriage.
Tip: Embark on a 30-day kindness challenge to help you kickstart your journey of kindness.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” - Aesop
Show kindness the way your spouse understands
Our idea of acts of kindness may differ from our spouse. We may think that buying a gift is a kind act whereas our spouse experiences kindness when we refrain from using harsh words during a conflict
. When we understand how our spouse wants to be treated kindly and express kindness from his/her frame of reference, we will likely have a happy spouse and relationship.
Kindness has the power to change a marriage that has become lacklustre or contemptuous. What is required is effort and time to be a kinder partner.
Kindness in marriage matters. Without it, our marriage cannot flourish. If we want our marriage to be thriving, we can choose to be kind, and make conscious effort to show kindness to our spouse.
What is one act of kindness you can do for your spouse today?
© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Swee Fen is an ordinary woman who desires to inspire others to make an extra-ordinary impact through her family life and life skills workshops, counselling training sessions and writing. You may connect with her at [email protected]
Share this article with someone you care for today, and you might encourage them in their journey. Share instantly on WhatsApp Mobile or on Telegram.